Blog > Colour Psychology: Marketing impact and cultural contrasts

Colour Psychology: Marketing impact and cultural contrasts

We are surrounded by colours in our everyday lives that evoke emotions and feelings both consciously and subconsciously; whether it be at a set of traffic lights where we know green is safe to go and red means stop, or how we generalise gender by symbolising baby girls with pink, and boys with blue.

Although colours have diverse cultural significances and associations, they are deemed to have similar physical and emotional effects on consumers when used in marketing and branding.

Every brand has its own identity that reflects the personality of the company and is instantly recognisable; from Louboutin’s red sole to Tiffany & Co’s robin egg blue; companies carefully consider the colours that go into their brand identity and how each colour will physically and emotionally impact their audience.

A study named the “Impact of colour on marketing” conducted by Satyendra Singh at the University of Winnipeg saw that:

“People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 6290 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”

What is colour psychology?

Colour psychology is the study of how colour determines human behaviour.

Although some aspects of colour psychology are said to be subjective, there is still undeniable proven elements through psychological research that established colours play a huge part in affecting your conscious and subconscious decisions through the association of mood and emotion and have proven physical effects on the human body.

Colours, cultural associations, and marketing:


In America and Europe, red is a colour that has a negative perception as well as a positive.

Commonly associated with danger, blood, love, excitement, Christmas, passion, and communism; it is the colour of love and hate.

In Eastern and Asian cultures, red is associated with the colour of joy and celebration.

Brides traditionally wear red wedding dresses as it’s believed to bring luck and happiness and is used throughout Chinese New Year.

Red in marketing:

  • Increases heart rate.
  • Causes a sense of urgency in retail clearance sales.
  • Attracts impulsive shoppers.

Examples of red branding: Of course – Redd Retail Group, Virgin, The Rolling Stones, Coca-Cola, Netflix, Target, Lego, McDonald’s, Toyota, Pinterest & Kellogg’s.


Orange in America is associated with happiness, warmth, enthusiasm, and autumn; and often connected to Thanksgiving and Halloween.

A shade of orange, saffron, is the most sacred colour among Hindu’s however in the Middle East orange can often be associated with mourning, loss and even death.

Orange is also the national colour of The Netherlands and their royal family.

Orange in marketing:

  • Creates a call to action.
  • Represents a friendly brand.
  • Children are drawn to the colour.

Examples of orange branding: Harley Davidson Motorcycles, Fanta, Amazon, Mozilla Firefox, Nickelodeon, Gulf, Microsoft PowerPoint and the Discovery Channel.


Known as the happiest colour in the USA; in Eastern and Asian cultures, you can often find royalty wearing yellow as it’s considered sacred and imperial.

In Africa, yellow can be reserved for those of high superiority.

Yellow is commonly associated with happiness, optimism, creativity, cheerfulness, caution, and laughter as it’s the only colour on the spectrum that remains bright no matter the shade, however in other cultures such as Latin America, Germany, and Egypt yellow can be associated with envy, jealousy, death, and mourning.

Yellow in marketing:

  • Represents optimism and youthfulness.
  • Attracts the attention of window shoppers.
  • Evokes taste buds and appetite, often associated with fast food.

Examples of yellow branding: McDonald’s, Nikon, National Geographic, DHL, BIC, Dickies, Yellow Pages, IKEA, Ferrari, Reese’s and Shell.


Blue is commonly associated with water, peace, increased productivity, wisdom, and serenity. Blue can also be associated with loyalty, trust, and authority and is often used for banks, spa’s, and corporate companies.

Interestingly, blue is the most globally favoured colour.

In Central and South, America blue is connected to religion as Virgin Mary’s robe was blue, and she is also the protector of the sea and fishermen.

In China blue is considered a feminine colour and can also be linked to immorality.

Blue, among other colours, plays a great part in the Hindu culture as it symbolises bravery, manliness, determination, and depth of character.

Lord Rama and Krishna, who’re depicted blue in the cultures holy books such as the Vedas and Upanishads, are believed to have spent their lives protecting humanity and destroying evil.

Blue in Marketing:

  • Commonly used in corporate companies to boost productivity and is non-invasive.
  • Creates trust between customer and brand.
  • Increases customer loyalty.

Examples of blue branding: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Oreo, Skype, Vimeo, Flickr, Oral B, Microsoft Word, Walmart, Ford and American Express.


Green is a colour that often symbolises money, denotes nature and represents new growth; green is said to alleviate depression and constitute tranquillity.

Greenery was also announced as the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017, being described as “a refreshing and revitalizing shade.”

In Western countries, green represents luck and is also the emblematic colour for Ireland.

Green can often be perceived as a positive colour, suggesting that it is ‘safe to go’ or something is correct, however, it also can be seen to represent jealousy with people often using the term “green-eyed monster”.

In China, green is the colour of disgrace and Chinese natives that are wearing a green hat are said to be associated with an cheater.

Japan believe green is connected to eternal life and freshness, and in the Middle east green is the colour of Islam.

Green in marketing:

  • Relaxing in store.
  • Associated with wealth.
  • Signals restoration and revival.

Examples of green branding: BP, John Deere, Whole Foods, Monster Energy, Tropicana, Spotify, Starbucks, Land Rover, Android and Xbox.


Purple is the colour of royalty in Europe and was often used for royal cloaks and robes. It was associated with a specific class because it symbolised wealth and fame due to the rarity and cost of purple dye.

A non-cultural association to purple is international music icon Prince, who left his legacy through the colour; and whom Pantone honoured earlier this year by releasing an official shade of purple dedicated to the legend {Love Symbol #2}.

Purple can also be associated with respect, wisdom, creativity, and magic but is suggested to be one of the hardest colours to work with due to it being the shortest frequency of wavelengths visible to humans.

In the United States, purple is a colour of honour and soldiers are awarded for  the Purple Heart, the oldest US military award that is still given to soldiers who are wounded or killed during their service.

However, in Latin America, Brazil and Thailand, purple is the colour of mourning with Thai widows often wearing purple after the death of their partners, and it is considered inappropriate in Brazil to wear purple if you are not attending a funeral.

Purple in marketing:

  • Often used in cosmetic products.
  • Used to calm and comfort.
  • Represents a creative brand.
  • Stands out as it’s not used as often as other colours.

Examples of purple branding: Crown Royal, Yahoo, Craigslist, Cadbury’s, Syfy and Hallmark.